'Post' mortem

Lack of size and depth at the post positions seemed only a minor inconvenience when Tennessee won 19 of its first 22 basketball games. Now that the Vols have lost two of their last three, however, their post shortcomings are looking more like a fatal flaw.

The numbers tell the story:

Game 23: Alabama's 6-10 Jermareo Davidson (17 points, 14 rebounds) and 6-8 Richard Hendrix (16 points, 10 rebounds) post double-doubles as the Tide manhandles UT inside en route to a 92-79 victory.

Game 24: Florida's 6-11 Joakim Noah (20 points) and 6-8 Chris Richard (14 points) combine to sink 14 of 18 floor shots but Tennessee makes a game-saving play in the final 20 seconds to win 76-72.

Game 25: Arkansas's 6-10 Darian Townes (15 points, 6 rebounds), 6-10 Vincent Hunter (10 points, 7 rebounds) and 6-8 Charles Thomas (11 points, 6 rebounds), dominate as the Razorbacks outrebound the Vols 45-24 and win 73-69.

Making these numbers all the more alarming is this: Richard, Townes and Hunter are reserves, yet they thoroughly outplayed Tennessee's starters. Florida's Richard hit 7 of 7 floor shots in just 18 minutes. Arkansas's Townes hit 7 of 9 in 23 minutes and Hunter 4 of 8 in 16 minutes.

"They did a great job of getting position and outrebounding us," UT forward Dane Bradshaw said of the Razorbacks. "They're undefeated when they win the rebounding margin, and they definitely did that with ease. That was the main task going into the game – control the rebounding – and we failed to do that."

Vol head coach Bruce Pearl touched on the same theme, noting: "They outrebounded us by 21. We gave away a lot of size at almost every position, and today it was a factor."

Tennessee has some size on the bench in freshmen Damien Harris (6-10, 275) and Ryan Childress (6-9, 250). Harris is redshirting, however, and Childress is averaging just 6.5 minutes per game.

That leaves UT to rely on 6-10, 250-pound Major Wingate, 6-7, 217-pound Andre Patterson and the 6-4, 200-pound Bradshaw.

Over the past three games Wingate has averaged 6.3 points and 2.0 rebounds, Patterson 11.0 and 6.0, Bradshaw 8.7 and 2.3.

This trio was seriously outplayed by the Arkansas frontline in Saturday's loss.

"The defensive game plan was there," Bradshaw said. "We just didn't execute it."

Tennessee's defensive game plan is built around protecting its undersized interior. Basically, the guards are asked to deny entry passes to the post and, failing that, to provide help when the ball gets inside. This plan has worked well as a rule but it faltered against the Razorbacks.

"Defensively, we were trying to deny them – keep them out of the paint and out of the post – but they just got the ball wherever they wanted to," senior guard C.J. Watson noted.

The Hogs got the ball wherever they wanted to, all right. So did the Tide and Gators before them. Every opponent has recognized the weakness of UT's interior defense but the last three foes have managed to exploit it. That has to be a growing concern.

"It doesn't concern me too much," Bradshaw said, "but it does concern me that we haven't been able to change with these type of teams. We're just going to have to take that responsibility as players because the coaches can only do so much on the drawing board."

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